Irish Water to seek permission to reveal €50 million spend

Company executives questioned by TDs tomorrow

Irish Water chief executive John Tierney: with other senior staff, is  to answer questions on the controversy at the Oireachtas environment committee tomorrow. Photograph: Alan Betson,

Irish Water chief executive John Tierney: with other senior staff, is to answer questions on the controversy at the Oireachtas environment committee tomorrow. Photograph: Alan Betson,

 


Irish Water is expected to seek the permission of some of the companies it paid €50 million in consultancy fees to, before giving a detailed breakdown to an Oireachtas committee hearing of how it spent the money.

Sources said the new semi- State may have to ask the companies before revealing exact details of how it spent half its €100 million establishment costs in the first year of its operation on consultants.

Chief executive John Tierney, as well as other senior staff, are to answer questions on the controversy at the Oireachtas environment committee tomorrow.

Committee chairman Michael McCarthy, a Labour TD for Cork South West, said he expected a “full and frank discussion”. “While it is inevitable there will be some costs in establishing a semi-State organisation, we need to see a breakdown of where the money was spent,” he said.

Maximum detail
An Irish Water spokesperson said it would disclose the “maximum amount of detail” but “Irish Water will have to have due regard for any commercially sensitive information”.

The company has said commercial sensitivities prevent it from revealing a breakdown and rationale for how it spent the €50 million, which went to some of the largest business and consultancy firms in the State, including Accenture, Ernst & Young and IBM.

It included advice on setting up information technology, including billing and customer service systems, financial management and asset management systems.

One well-placed source said Irish Water would be making contact with the consultancy firms today and “there may be a situation where companies will have to give permission” for disclosure.


Cost breakdown
Other sources said it would be politically impossible for Mr Tierney not to provide a detailed breakdown of the cost, but Irish Water is expected to lay out “what the process was, the nature of the spend, how the tendering was done”.

“The HSE was set up and none of this was done and they were playing catch-up afterwards,” one source said, while also claiming the ESB introduced a billing system in 2005 at a cost of €100 million.

A spokesman for Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said the Minister would have been aware of the “overall €100 million figure, but not the minutiae”, while junior minister Fergus O’Dowd said he first heard of it when Mr Tierney was interviewed on RTÉ.